ALL MY LIFE'S A CIRCLE - 50 Years After Buffalo Creek

"All my life's a circle; Sunrise and sundown; Moon rolls thru the nighttime; Till the daybreak comes around."

"All my life's a circle; But I can't tell you why; Season's spinning round again; The years keep rollin' by."

"It seems like I've been here before; I can't remember when; But I have this funny feeling; That we'll all be together again.

No straight lines make up my life; And all my roads have bends; There's no clear-cut beginnings; And so far no dead-ends." - Harry Chapin

By Bob Weaver

Here we are 50 years after the Buffalo Creek disaster, and many of the same concerns exist with toxic sludge and polluted water from mountaintop mining, and hundreds and hundreds of unclaimed strip mines long abandoned by their owners.

Now, there are continued roll-backs on the Clean War Act to return mining to its former glory.

Those who wanted clean water and air are in a "War on Coal."

My connection to the Buffalo Creek tragedy, having been there, has left me with a head-full of memories and clarity about money, power and politics.

Most West Virginians have long surrendered to King Coal, their government operatives and their ability to destroy what should be our most important natural resources, our mountains, valleys and rivers - our health, safety and life itself, if not for us, for our children and grandchildren.

The state continues to have a long string of governors who have been owned by coal, some going to prison.

While, at the same time, we honor the miners for their long struggles and hard labor.

In Logan County, reports say rainbow trout are being scattered into the swift current of Buffalo Creek, bringing back to life a stream that is known for death.

That which belongs to nature is slowly returning after years of environmental abuse and the tragic event of February 26, 1972.

50 years ago, the frequently cited sludge dam belonging to Pittston Coal Company collapsed, sending millions of gallons of toxic waste water down Buffalo Creek, killing 125 men, women and children.

It destroyed everything in its wall of power and disrupted the balance of life.

Over 1,000 were injured and 4,000 were left homeless, the damages estimated at $100 million.

In widely publicized lawsuits against Pittson that dragged on for years, the victims received a few thousand dollars.

The company said the death and destruction was an "act of God," and elected officials like then Governor Arch Moore expressed more concern over the companies losses than human life, a disgraceful display supporting King Coal.

His political maneuvering to help Pittson after the disaster, cost the state's taxpayers $100 million dollars. Moore settled with Pittson for one million, three days before leaving office.

Moore's supporters didn't seem to mind.

Now, the DNR says nature has helped the stream recover, and local people have helped with the cleaning, forming an ad-hoc watershed improvement group.

After funerals, memorial services, numerous books, films and the erection of a monument, the tincture of time has surely healed some of the suffering wounds of the families who lost their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children, many children.

For some, the wound is still open.

As these years have gone by, there is little hope that the State of West Virginia will cling to the divine, protecting that which God has given to us.

See SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - 1972 Buffalo Creek: Lifeless Bodies, Moments Of Clarity And A Curse

A RETURN TO BUFFALO CREEK: 1972 - "Oppression Done Under The Sun">